Mention a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) to anyone and their first response is likely to include an obsession with cleaning and washing hands. Whilst this is one element in the disorder, there are in fact, many types and causes of OCD. And some might surprise you.
Here are five types and causes of OCD:
Type of OCD – Sport
We have all seen the funny rituals sportsmen and women adopt when it comes to their particular sports. Many sports people are noted for their superstitions.
Rafael Nadal however, takes it to the next level. He has a myriad of rituals including a particular way of touching his face when serving, lining up his water bottles, crossing the tennis line after his opponent, and even eating his gel snacks.
England football player Paul Gascoigne has admitted to suffering from OCD and would often turn up to matches late because of his repeated trips back home to check that he had locked his front door. There is a fine line, however, between one person’s superstitions and another’s obsessive behaviour. It is not surprising then that OCD is closely associated with sports.
Sports Causes of OCD
Anyone involved in competitive sports is likely to feel stress and OCD is strongly connected to periods of increased stress. Most people are capable of either channelling this stress towards their goals, but for some, it becomes overwhelming.
When this happens, they try and find ways to combat their rising panic and feelings of obsessions. Unfortunately, this is often the start of a vicious circle. The stress that started them off is now perpetuating their obsessive behaviour.
Type of OCD – Postpartum
It is perfectly normal for new mums to worry about bringing home their baby. But for some women, this seemingly natural event can trigger OCD. As with the many causes of OCD, stress is a major factor.
Postpartum OCD can affect women who have not experienced any kind of anxiety or compulsive behaviour in the past. In fact, women with this kind of OCD are acutely aware that their behaviours are not right but are unable to stop, and in many cases do not want help in case they are seen as ‘unfit mothers’.
Postpartum Causes of OCD
There are two suggested causes of OCD which occur in new mums, one is psychological and the other is physiological. After the birth, a woman’s hormone levels fluctuate wildly, including an increase of oestrogen. This increase has been known to affect the production of serotonin, which itself is known to be one of the causes of OCD.
The other cause is related to stress. New mums are already under a great deal of stress, but for some, this leads to intrusive thoughts. These thoughts can vary from fears of contamination, fears of harming the baby and troubling thoughts that the baby is not theirs. The mother will then start performing obsessive routines as a way of coping with these thoughts. These routines might include repeated sterilising bottles or constantly checking if the baby is breathing.
Type of OCD – Relationships
Can being in a relationship really cause OCD symptoms? Behavioural experts appear to think so. A person suffering from relationship OCD will constantly question whether their partner actually loves them or not. They also believe they are not worthy of love and cannot believe that their partner really loves them. This makes the relationship extremely tense and sufferers often use this to break up good relationships.
Relationships Causes of OCD
So what triggers the relationship causes of OCD? This is one of those disorders that start with observations. We live in an extremely self-reflective world, where our every moves are scrutinized and recorded. Our lives are photo-shopped to perfection and should mirror those of celebrities. But of course, this is impossible.
Experts believe that relationship OCD starts when a person starts to worry that what they are seeing on social media, TV or the news is not what they are experiencing. Sufferers want to emulate the dramatic and deep emotional feelings and connections displayed, even if it’s entirely unrealistic. They believe their relationship is flawed because it doesn’t look the same and they end it.
Their triggers will include anything that reminds them of other people’s relationships. This could be a song, a news bulletin featuring the celebrity couple, a TV drama with a couple kissing, or a film that centres on an unfaithful partner.
Type of OCD – Compulsive Skin-Picking
Many of us have heard of the kind of OCD where you pull out your hair. But did you know there is another kind called Compulsive Skin-Picking (CSP)? This type of OCD is exactly what you’d think, a compulsion to pick at your skin and is preceded typically by stress and anxiety. Picking at the skin relieves anxious feelings.
Causes of OCD: Compulsive Skin-Picking
The actual cause of CSP is not known but it is common for students and young adults. This suggests that stress and high levels of anxiety could be a trigger. Most CSP suffers don’t know they are picking their skin as they tend to start off by subconsciously picking at moles or skin tags. Afterwards, sufferers will get a feeling of relief and pleasure, much like self-harmers. This can result in a vicious cycle.
Type of OCD – Student
As we have seen, stress is a major cause of OCD and studying for exams is certainly a stressful time for many young people. There are other students that leave home for college which can also be very stressful. There are some young people that are already experiencing symptoms of OCD before leaving home.
At home, it is possible that family members learned to accommodate a sufferer’s symptoms and worked around them. At college, however, there are a whole host of new stressors. Room-mates, new schedules and academic pressures all play a part.
Student Cause of OCD
For those who are predisposed to stress it is likely that they will succumb to symptoms of OCD. Whereas before, they might have been able to work around their rituals, now the rituals will take centre stage and affect school work. It can be difficult for students to carry out their rituals as they are constantly surrounded so they will frequently find a private space. This will leave them isolated and unable to socialise with others.
Why are some people susceptible to OCD and others are not?
There are two trains of thought when it comes to the causes of OCD.
There is research that suggests OCD runs in families. It is thought that other factors, such as a childhood illness, which activated certain genes could be responsible.
Experts believe that those suffering from OCD have problems within the brain. It is thought that that communications between the frontal lobes and the deeper parts do not work as efficiently and non-sufferers.
Do you have symptoms of OCD related to a subject that we have not covered here? Let us know in the comments section.